Sara Jean

Sara Jean

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Around Arizona: Top 7 Things To Do While In Town For Super Week

When I moved to Arizona four years ago I assumed I was stumbling into a dry, barren, flat land of brown, scorpion-ridden, snake-filled dirt. Oh how wrong I was! This beautiful state has won my heart as it does so many visitors from across the globe. If you are here visiting for Super Week, be may not want to leave. From beautiful lakes, to the grandeur of our canyons, snow-peaked mountains, saguaro-filled valleys and green winter grass sprinkled with palm trees, you get a little bit of everything in Arizona.

I'm here to give you my top 7 destinations.

No 7

The Grand Canyon

Distance: 3.5 hours from Phoenix

Permit/Pass Required: It's $35 per car for a week. You can purchase in advance here.

Getting There: See Map

Tips: Go early. Not only will this ensure you beat the heat but the crowds. We went at about 9am on a Sunday and had so much room to breath. By the time we left though, it was getting incredibly busy around noon! I truly believe this is the best way to experience the grandeur of the canyon. Pack a lunch and wear comfortable footwear with good tread so you can wander along the rim at the viewpoints. Please stay on designated trails and don't get too close to the edge as the loose rock can be very slippery. And the wind can be brutal!

About the Drive: While hiking is a great way to see the Grand Canyon, not everyone wants to break out the hiking shoes and break a sweat on a hot Arizona summer day while traversing a canyon. Desert View Drive is a great way for the whole family (and the family dog) to see the Grand Canyon in all of its wonder in just a few hours - and avoid the crowds.

The scenic drive takes you along SR 64 from the Grand Canyon Village. Along the way you will find six scenic viewpoints to stop, stretch your legs, wander along the rim and take in the wondrous views of our Arizona's notoriety. Keep your eyes peeled for the four picnic areas to stop and eat lunch as well as five somewhat hidden pullouts that will give you a more natural view of the Canyon's depth (these are also the spots you won't find many humans who will ultimately end up photo-bombing your family pictures).

As the sun rises and sets in the sky, the canyon will change in front of you. Shadows cast new colors and create new views with every hour that passes. Take time to stop and read about the history and geology of the Grand Canyon's story. But most importantly, put the phone and the camera away for at least a little while, find a spot in solitude and take it all in. A place this big has a way of putting things into perspective...

Learn more about the viewpoints and drive HERE.

No 6

Boynton Canyon Trail, Sedona

Distance: 2 hours from Phoenix

Permit/Pass Required: $5 to park.

Getting There: See Map.

Tips: The main steep climb is at the end of the trail. It's worth it though to sit in the canyon and soak in the views and the good vibes. Dress accordingly as it gets very hot in the sun and unpredictably cold in the shaded areas. Winter here can result ice and snow so plan ahead. Get there early if you want to find a parking spot!

About the Hike: The Boynton Canyon Vortex is one of the few vortexes you can allegedly reach out and touch. It’s located just over one half of a mile from the Boynton Canyon parking area and very easy to get to. Look for the Boynton Spire (also known as Kachina Woman) just 5,200 feet from the trailhead. The center of the vortex is said to be located in a knoll south of the spire. If you're feeling adventurous you can climb to the top and soak in vortex energy. (Side note - if you are wondering what this vortex energy entails, Sedona is known for having several. It is said that these places are where one should go to pray, meditate and heal because the energy is said to "interact with one’s inner self." Vortexes are also said to "increase psychic energy and make you more self aware.")

Boynton Canyon is supposed to be a mix of both masculine and feminine energies - bringing a person like myself some much needed balance. So off I went, pup in tow, to get centered and see if we could witness some magic.

The hike is absolutely breathtaking. From the red rocks to the soft earth, the canyons, the abundance of trees and how the landscape changed from mile to mile, there wasn't a moment that didn't have me in absolute awe of what mother nature had in store for me that day. The trail itself is relatively flat, with a few rocky climbs scattered throughout to keep you on your toes. A passer-by mentioned seeing a javelina but all I witnessed were over-fed squirrels, a couple deer and a bunny.

You'll know where the trail ends by the sign alerting you to the fact. This is where I saw numerous hikers spread about the smooth canyon walls enjoying lunch and taking in the afternoon sun. My dog and I followed suit and I watched as even she seemed to be mesmerized by the beauty Boynton Canyon had to offer...or was it the energy? I guess we'll never truly know.

One added bonus of this hike is the man with the flute...if you are lucky enough to encounter him, he'll give you a heart shaped rock, "The Heart of Mother Earth" and a sign of unconditional love. Keep it, or pass it on. Whatever you do, take pause for a moment and appreciate the gifts that were given you on this beautiful trail in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness. I sure did.

No 5

Canyon Lake

Distance: One hour

Permit/Pass Required: Yes, You can buy a Tonto Pass at any of these locations!

Getting There: See Map

Canyon Lake is a hidden gem perfect for an afternoon on the water! Rent an SUP or kayak, take a trip on the Dolly Steamboat, take a little hike up Boulder Canyon Trail, stop by Tortilla Flat for a taste of Arizona Wild West or just take a little drive and enjoy the scenery. This incredible lake has a little something for everyone.

No 4

Peralta Trail, Superstition Mountains

Distance: One Hour from Phoenix

Permit/Pass Required: No.

Getting There: See Map.

Tips: Bring enough water, definitely pack some snacks or a small lunch to enjoy as you take in the views of Weaver's Needle from Fremont Saddle or the Pine Tree. Get there early for easy parking and be aware that the road can be a little rough for a low-clearance vehicle, but do-able if you take it slow.

About the Hike: Peralta Trail is one of those trails that gives you a little bit of everything. It's not too difficult, but enough of a challenge that you feel like you got a great workout. It's not too long, but long enough to make a great day hike. And it can be extended if you are feeling even more adventurous. The hike starts out pretty flat and if you hit it at the right time of the year you'll be gifted with ample water for your pup, especially in the draw, as well as a tiny waterfall or two. Once you start to climb the views become absolutely breath-taking. Turn around and look behind you now and again for the wonder, or save those views for the way back. The trail has plenty of shade if you need to give your tired legs a break (all the rocks can feel like mother-nature's own version of your gym's stair-stepper after the first mile and a half). The rock formations and vegetation changes with elevation and there is no shortage on things to look at and appreciate (even some hidden caves)!

Once you reach the viewpoint for Weaver's Needle, pick a vacant rock and pull out your lunch, or continue the trail to the left and meander up behind the tall rock formations for some great, shady views of the needle with a little more privacy from the crowds. Then it's off to the lone pine tree - which I recommend you visit for even longer with an overnight backpacking trip in! Set up the tent under the tree and enjoy watching the sunset and sunrise from one of Arizona's most spectacular viewpoints! Download the AllTrails map so you don't get lost!

No 3

Piestewa Peak

Distance: 10-20 minutes depending on where you are in the Valley

Permit/Pass Required: Nope!

Getting There: See Map

Tips: Wear the correct footwear! I've hiked this trail in Teva hiking sandals, Danner hiking boots, Adidas sneaks and Salomon trail runners - The trail runners worked best. This trail is very much a scramble and the rocks can be loose and slippery. Watch your step and be courteous and aware of the hikers around you. Be patient and take turns where the trail is narrow! Go at sunrise. Start in the dark with a headlamp. I promise you won't regret the loss of a little sleep!

About the Hike: Piestewa Peak (formerly known as Squaw Peak) is the second highest point in the Phoenix Mountains, just shy of Camelback Mountain. Due to it's central location in Phoenix, this one is bound to be a bit crowded - unless you take advantage of a quiet morning before the sun rises. At any other time be prepared to circle the parking lot for a few minutes before a spot opens up. I promise you though - it's worth it. Please also be aware - this hike is not for the faint of heart - or the weakest of ankles. Watch your footing from beginning to end to avoid a mishap (of the four times I've hiked this I've seen three).

The beginning of the hike leads you up an old, what I'm assuming was once concrete, trail. It's a bit wider than the rest and will get you quickly warmed up for the rest of the rocky climb. As the trail fades into the mountain you'll be faced with a series of steps carved from the rock of the peak. Railings will help you in the toughest spots and there will be more than one occasion that you assume you've arrived only to find you've encountered yet another false summit. Don't worry - you'll know when you reach the top! The summit to Piestewa is only 1.1 miles and the views are worth every bun-burning foot you gain in elevation. Find a rock to safely post up and stop and enjoy what you've conquered once you arrive.

I must mention the way down. Your legs will be shaky at this point. You will likely be feeling a bit over-confident. The decent is when most the injuries I've witnessed occurred. Also - don't let the trail runners intimidate you - just politely move out of their way. They know they are crazy. And they like it.

Your trip to the summit and back should take you anywhere from 1 to 1.5 hours.

No 2

Salt River

Distance: 40 minutes

Permit/Pass Required: Yes, You can buy a Tonto Pass at any of these locations!

Getting There: See Map

The wild Salt River Horses are a magical sight to see, and your best chance at seeing them is during sunrise or sunset. There are three perfect spots where they are typically active, but the crowds will tell you where to go!

First stop: Phon D Sutton Recreation Area, Fort McDowell, AZ 85264

Second Stop: Coon Bluff Campground, Coon Bluff Rd, Mesa, AZ 85215

Third stop: Butcher Jones Recreation Site, Fort McDowell, AZ 85264

Expect about a 4-hour trip if you’re visiting each of these places and driving from the metro-Phoenix area.

No 1

Papago Park

Distance: 10-20 minutes depending on where you are in Phoenix

Permit/Pass Required: Nope!

Getting There: See Map

Papago is a great spot to catch a Phoenix sunset! It's a hidden oasis right in the midst of the city filled with majestic rock formations, blue lagoons surrounded by fat palm trees, an abundance of birds, places for a picnic, and miles upon miles of trails and instagram-worthy photo ops! While you are there check out Hole-In-The-Rock, the Desert Botanical Gardens and the Phoenix Zoo!

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